Monday, April 30, 2012

Black, White, and Rainbow

Yet it often is.  From the time I was a child, I was taught to think in terms of black and white.  To steal was a sin, to lie was a sin, and to kill was a sin.  Yet as an adult I learned:
  • That stealing was okay as long as it was ideas (All collegiate essays require you to cite your source material).
  • That lying was okay to preserve peoples feelings (Does this dress make me look fat?  Answer yes, and watch what happens).
  • And killing was fine when the government mandated it (How many have died due to the death penalty or war?).
Perhaps we teach children in black and white, because its easier, but unfortunately too many of those black and white ideas follow us into adulthood.  And we begin basing the world around the black and white fallacy.

Take a step back and think about this as if you were a child: Jimmy takes Timmy's lunch money.  Some of us might teach our children Jimmy is bad because he takes Timmy's lunch money.  As a child this is as far as we will take the logic.  Truth is that Jimmy takes Timmy's lunch money because his Dad spends all their money gambling.  And when Dad spends the money Jimmy's Mom gets drunk and hits him.  So he's only doing what he's being taught at home.  So where is Jimmy spending the money?  To buy something for dinner before he gets home, because if he comes home with money, it will be taken.  Both Jimmy and Timmy in this case are being taught to think in terms of black and white.  Timmy is learning stealing is wrong and that it isn't right for the strong to pick on the weak.  Jimmy has been trained that life is about strength, and the strong take what they can to survive. 

This kind of thinking is called black or white fallacy or a false dichotomy.  Where two alternative states are presented as the only possibilities, when in fact more possibilities exist.  And lots of people suffer from it from those who suffer from Borderline Personality to a person dealing with Depression.  In politics you can watch this kind of thinking taking place on a national scale and Americans rush to take sides.  It even invade our speech when we think about ethnicity. White is associated with being cultured and educated.  When a hispanic or a black man are either they are called white.  Violence, drugs, and gangs are all associated with young hispanic or black men.  Its a little frightening when you really think about it.

The commonly accepted view seems to tilt towards white, grey, and black thinking.  Because most situations are not black or white and rather are someplace in between.  Like the question of whether we should raise taxes for millionaires.  Some folks feel that when someone earns their keep they should be able to use it as they wish.  Others feel that if they have excess they should give it away to those who have less.  This question isn't that simple though, because there are millionaires who give to charity yearly for the purposes of the tax breaks.  So they are already supporting those with less.  Should they be required to give even more?  Bill Gates says yes.  Others say no.  This isn't a yes or no question, but rather one that doesn't lend itself to any easy answers.  But too often we want easy answers.

And even among those who think in terms of white, grey, and black it tends to be difficult.  A pregnant teen faces how people really think too often.  She just wanted to prove to her boyfriend she loved him.  Does that make her bad?  And if she isn't bad, why does her father call her a slut and refuse to help her?  Why does the boy tell her she meant nothing to him and he won't support the child?  Why do the same people who fight against her aborting the child also fight the agencies that want to help her keep the child?  And if she chooses to keep the child why won't anyone employ her?  Some Christians will tell her that her child will be born in sin without a father.  Other people will tell her she's a bad Mom, because she's not doing enough to find a way to support her child.  And all this while she has no emotional support, no financial support, or friends to help her out.  She has been painted black and it was all from a few hours of fun.  But is that the truth?  Is that right?  And in all this have any of these people actually thought about the child in her womb?  Of course you have, you thought: Hey put the child up for adoption!  Which would be a viable option out of a lot of the troubles she's facing, but at this point she might not have the support to even make that choice.  And that's a scary part of the society we live in. 

Perhaps what is most troubling when we carry this white, black , and grey thinking into religion.  There are Christians out there who think that the only way to God is through Christianity.  Muslims that believe the only law is Sharia Law.  And Jews who believe both are terribly misguided.  But where does that leave the Taoist, the Buddhist, and the Atheist?  Are they wicked because they believe differently?  I think these are questions that the grey area doesn't adequately cover.  We should have a means of being able to recognize each other for who we are, separate the choices a person has made from that, and work to make the lives for all human life better.  And I think that particular thought process is best compared to a prism.

The white light that is reality comes into the prism.  And for some of us what we perceive as one color of the spectrum another person will see differently, however we are able to keep in mind that it all comes from the same ultimate source.  Some folks may say that source is God.  Others science.  I call it life.  And with life I can paint a picture of stunning beauty or terrible cruelty.

I had a teacher who was fond of saying, "There is only one race: The Human Race."  I agree with him.  We don't live in a black and white world.  And what is grey to you might be black to another person.  But when we see each other as critical parts of a whole, the black and white thinking perishes and we begin thinking of our families, our communities, and our world in different ways.  I love every color of the spectrum, and there is a need for each of us.  The Jimmys and Timmys and unwed teens alike.  We are all going to make mistakes according to the culture we live in and the rules it binds us by, but we do not have to see the world in black, white, and grey.  It is full of color, both in morality and ethnicity.

Whew!  That was a challenging one.  Thanks for hanging with me to the end.  On Wednesday I'll tackle both goals and the IWSG.  I'm Jayrod Garrett, the First OG and I just want to know:

Which do you prefer?  Black, White, and Grey or The Color Spectrum?


  1. Beautifully written.
    I have nothing to add - but the full spectrum is beautiful

    1. I know the full spectrum was just a must add. Thanks Deb.

  2. I agree with Deb E

  3. Wow. Can you submit this to a paper or something? Great writing, great article, great points.

    1. That's a good suggestion, Charlie. I guess I could. I'll have to find a venue. Thanks. :D

  4. The discussion of absolutes. Well said. Truth be told, it is easier for people in general to categorize things into a defined box. Not sure why. I like to break things down and consider all possibilities. When it comes to the bell-shaped curve, white and black are on either end of the spectrum - grey makes up the majority. :)

    1. It is much easier to put things inside a box. But the easy way and the way it should be are often two different things. I know I like to begin inside of the box. It is familiar and safe, but I like to explore soon after outside the box and see where I can go.

      As for black and white on the spectrum, black actually doesn't exist on the color spectrum, because it isn't a color. White is the combination of all color, and black is the absence of color. So I try not to see the world in grey, because it isn't an accurate representation of the world, at least to me. :D


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